credit impact – post holiday blues – avoid these spending triggers

                                                                                  Photo credit: iStock

Stephen Lesavich, PhD, JD   @SLesavich

Are you feeling a little down after the holidays?  Do you have the post holiday blues?

Do you want to go shopping, buy something on-line, or purchase something after watching an infomercial late at night, just to make you feel better?

In our award-winning and best-selling book, The Plastic Effect:  How Urban Legends Influence the Use and Misuse of Credit Cards, we call this phenomena, a Plastic Reaction™.

A Plastic Reaction may cause you to make impulsive purchasing decisions that you would normally not make.  A Plastic Reaction is typically generated by emotional triggers.

Many of our strongest reactions and impulsive decisions are a direct result of emotional triggers. 

You must become aware of your emotional triggers when making purchases of any kind. There are two kinds of emotional triggers, positive and negative emotional triggers.

Positive emotional triggers generate good feelings such as happiness, hope, love, etc. Purchasing decisions made based on such positive triggers can lead to the misuse of credit cards in many instances because you feel good about the purchase.

However, negative emotional triggers tend to be more troublesome.

Negative emotional triggers generate bad and stressful feelings such as anger, depression, guilt, helplessness, etc.  Negative emotional triggers more typically lead to bad purchasing decisions, the misuse of credit cards and result in more credit card debt.

Negative emotional triggers often lead to impulse purchases of products and services used for instant self-gratification. The products and services are used for easing the feelings associated with the negative emotions and may be used to fill an emotional void.

Such negative emotional triggers disrupt the normal decision-making process.

You can avoid misusing your credit cards and increasing your credit card debt by becoming aware of your current emotional state and what feelings trigger positive and negative emotions within you.

How do you avoid emotional purchasing triggers?

First, recognize when you are being triggered emotionally.  Identify the positive or negative feelings that are causing you to be triggered.

Second,  check in on your emotional state and ask yourself questions such as:

  • How do I feel right now?
  • What is causing me to react this way?
  • Why do I feel the need to buy this?
  • Do I really need to buy it?
  • How will I feel after I buy it?
  • How will I feel when I have to pay for it?
  • How will I feel when I go farther into debt?

Try writing down the answers to these questions on a piece of paper.  According to a recent article, writing on paper stimulates a part of the brain called the Reticular Activating System, or the RAS.

If you have been emotionally triggered and begin writing, the RAS acts as a filter for your brain, giving more importance to the activity that you’re actively focusing on, the writing, instead of the emotions that caused the purchasing triggers.

After answering these questions, what is your reaction to these emotional triggers now? Are your reactions any different?  Did answering these questions change the way you feel at all?

Third,  empower yourself by creating healthy new spending habits.  Check in with your emotions and ask yourself such questions before making any purchase with your credit card.

When emotional triggers cause you to make impluse purchases with your credit cards, you give your power away to someone (e.g., a merchant) or something else (e.g., a bank).  You become disempowered when you purchase something because of an emotional reaction.

You have a choice in how to react to your emotional triggers in these situations. Making a positive choice empowers you. By making a choice to not react to emotional triggers and make an impluse purchase, you will help to create a prosperous financial future for yourself and your loved ones.

Join the conversation on this topic by leaving me comment below or join me on @SLesavich with the hashtag, #creditimpact.

Stephen Lesavich, PhD — Co-author of the award-winning and best-selling book:  The Plastic Effect:  How Urban Legends Influence the Use and Misuse of Credit Cards.

Regular columnist: Positive Impact Magazine

Copyright © 2017, by Stephen Lesavich, PhD.  All rights reserved.

Credit Impact™ and Plastic Reactions™ are U.S. Trademarks of Coconut Avenue, Inc.  Used with permission. Unauthorized use is prohibited.